Kenya has not sold an inch of land to carbon credit dealers, Ruto swears

William Ruto

President William Ruto speaks during the High-Level Segment for Heads of State and Government session at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai on December 1, 2023. 

Photo credit: AFP

What you need to know:

  • The President is proposing a new carbon credits tax to offset the cost of financing adaptation measures.
  • The statement from the company raised accountability and transparency questions in Kenya.

In Dubai, UAE

Kenya has not sold an inch of its land to any carbon credit company, President William Ruto has said, dismissing reports that Dubai-based firm Blue Carbon three weeks ago signed a framework of collaboration (FOC) with Kenya’s State Department of Environment and Climate Change that would see the government concede millions of hectares of its territory for the production of carbon credits.

At the same time, the President is proposing a new carbon credits tax to offset the cost of financing adaptation measures and force the global north to rethink its greening and conservation policies, especially in Africa.

It is, however, his statement on the purported Blue Carbon deal that cause ripples within the climate action circles as, according to an official statement signed by the firm’s parent company, Global Carbon Investments and dated October 25, 2023, the credits would be generated from restoring and protecting the land, and the company would then sell these on to major polluters to offset their emissions.

The statement from the company raised accountability and transparency questions in Kenya as it appeared to suggest that the country had opened a back door to opaque climate deals. 

It claimed that the The FOC “was signed with the State Department of Environment and Climate Change and underlined Blue Carbon's commitment to explore and support Kenya's Article 6 readiness as per the Paris Agreement, whereby carbon credits are generated in the form of Internationally Transferable Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs) and aligned with national climate targets”.

It added: “Prior to the signing of this momentous agreement, a delegation of esteemed official representatives from Kenya, including Mr Augustine K Kenduiwo, Deputy Director of Climate Change Mitigation, visited Blue Carbon's offices in the UAE to discuss potential avenues of collaboration and opportunities.”

But, speaking to the Nation on Saturday on the sidelines of the world’s biggest climate summit (COP28) in Dubai,  President Ruto appeared to distance his government from the claimed deal, saying instead that the government is currently finalising the regulations. 

“As I talk to you, the regulations are on their way to Parliament. We managed to change the law and, if you remember, I signed the new amendments to the new law about a month and a half ago before the Africa Climate Summit, and now we are working on the regulations because we want to bring integrity into the whole carbon space, from carbon pricing to carbon markets,” said the President.

“And we have agreed as a continent, and the World Bank by the way is now leading the way in making sure that we finally end up with integrity and standards on carbon trading.”

Earlier on Friday, while addressing delegates at the global meet, President Ruto called for a new carbon tax, saying: “We are finally having a conversation on carbon pricing and carbon tax. It was a difficult conversation before, but I think everybody realises that we need revenue to be able to bankroll climate financing, and it has to be new channels of resources where everybody contributes and not only the traditional contributors.” 

But Mr Mohammed Adow, founder and director of Power Shift Africa, a Nairobi-based think-tank that mobilises climate action in Africa, said that carbon credits are nothing but pollution permits.

"Telling us to trust that carbon markets can deliver on our financing needs for nature and people is like telling us to keep trusting that a sieve will eventually bail the water out of a sinking boat,” he protested.

“We cannot spend time at COP28 blindly trying to convince ourselves that the markets will eventually work, without addressing the fact that bigger investment is needed right now to keep forests intact. It is imperative that the Article 6 carbon market rules become as tight as possible to prevent the complete exploitation of lower income countries’ land. But that is still the equivalent of turning the sieve into a bucket without investing in repairing the boat.”

Climate finance expert Dr Fadhel Kaboub, associate professor of economics at Denison University and president of The Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity, agreed with Mr Adow, saying “we find false solutions proposed in the Nairobi declaration like carbon markets which simply amount to cheap pollution permits for global north historic polluters who can pass on the cost of the permits  to their customers (many of whom are in the global south), displace farmers and indigenous communities, enrich speculators and middlemen, and continue polluting while offering crumbs as climate finance.”

Dr Kaboub said he expects African leaders to state the facts: “Africa is owed a climate debt by the historic polluters. Climate reparations must be delivered in the form of debt cancelation (not debt restructuring), transfer of technology (not impoted green tech), grants (not loans) for adaptation and economic resilience, and transformation of the global trade, finance and investment architecture.”